The sea forecast for Fraserburgh, with waves over four metres heading straight-on to the shore, enticed me to the northeast coast amidst the sleet showers, though not with oil paints and a big canvas to lash down so as to channel my inner Joan Eardley. It was hard enough keeping myself upright in the gusts! I haven’t yet looked at the photos I took on my ‘big camera’ to see if I managed to hold it still enough in the wind, but these snaps on my phone give you a sense of how tempestuous the sea was.
There’s such minimal colour the images are almost black and white, but using a photo editing b&w filter in the photo below shows what subtle greys there are and the variations in white.
Will I translate it into thick paint, or wet-into-wet watercolour, or with mixed media, or might I try monoprinting? I don’t know, yet.
Pennan is a tiny, historic, postcard-perfect Scottish seaside village around the corner from my favourite pebble beach. The access road is a steep single-track with blind corners down the hillside, popping out between houses at the sea. What Pennan is famous for depends on whether you’re into cinema or geology; let’s just say I didn’t take any photos of a red phone box.
But it’s not a historic fishing village entirely stuck in a timewarp:
At one side of the bay, it’s conglomerates and pebble allsorts. (For geology enthusiasts: more info here.)
After spending quite some time hereabouts, I then wandered across to the other side of the bay.
At the harbour end, the cliffs are that distinctive red sandstone.
Back home, I discovered most of my photos were in what might be called “urban concrete and rust” category, rather than “picturesque seaside village”.
The setting: huge country house with a formal garden and a large park. Haddo House in middle-of-nowhere Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
My brain: buzzing about like a bumble bee, absorbing all the possibilities for paintings. I felt obliged to tackle the building because imposter syndrome was whispering in my ear about how this is what “real” pleinair painters would do, but truly the colours and patterns in the garden are what’s lingering in my mind a couple of days later.
My aim with my drawing was to be a drawn exploration of a building with so many different parts to it rather than an obsession with perspective. I found myself wondering why the main door that opens onto the gardens isn’t wider, more grandiose. And if the fountain can be turned up be to more than little dribble. And how strong the wind gets given the supports on the small palm trees.
Wrapping up warmly, I took my big camera out to enjoy this morning’s frost. These photos are a selection of what caught my eye. They are about enjoying my garden in late autumn, the way frost changes the appearance of things and catches the sunlight. I am not thinking of them as leading directly to paintings at the moment, though the patterns and strong lines have been added to other memories from the garden.
I couldn’t resist going out with my ‘big camera’ to a patch of trees at the bottom of the village where the autumnal leaf-fall is like walking into one of Klimt’s woodland paintings. I first discovered that the northeast did autumnal colours beautifully in 2014, heading back to Skye from Gardenstown (see this blog) and it’s a joy to now have it on my doorstep.
I did get asked twice what I was photographing, once by a cyclist and the other a farmer who drove up and told me he was looking for an escaped bull, to which my first thought was that this was what crofters tell wanderers on Skye too, but then I realised that the bull I’d seen in the neighbouring field this morning wasn’t there. I did manage not to enthuse to either of them about Klimt and limited myself to a simple “the colours of the leaves” explanation.